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Agreement Signed For BMC To Open North Adams ER

By Tammy Daniels
iBerkshires Staff
12:15PM / Wednesday, April 30, 2014
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Berkshire Medical Center is expected to open an emergency room on the former North Adams Regional Hospital campus.

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — Just one month after North Adams Regional Hospital closed, a crew is on its way to prepare for the restoration of emergency services.

U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Henry Boroff endorsed a terms of use and occupancy agreement on Wednesday morning that will allow Berkshire Medical Center Inc. to operate an emergency satellite the facility within the closed building.

"We have, in less than a month, moved many steps forward, culminating today in having the emergency services open," said attorney John F. Rogers, vice president and general counsel for Berkshire Health Systems.

The expectation is for emergency services to be restored by the week of May 19.

"We're glad that this step has been taken," said Michael Fadel, representing the Massachusetts Nurses Association. "Each step toward the restoration of the services is a positive step."

Berkshire Medical Center is now assessing the needs required to reopen the facility. That includes an assessment of the building's condition.

"The facility has been closed for a month. We have to make sure the equipment is functioning correctly; make sure it's tested and we make sure infection control," Rodgers said, adding that BMC would be opening an imaging department because it was "inconvenient" for patients to drive to BMC for X-rays.

BMC has previously estimated spending $10 million on building improvements to be in compliance with current licensing codes.

The emergency room will have to be prepared and ready for inspections from both the state Department of Public Health and the Centers for Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

Another hearing will be set to confirm BMC's custody of patient's records. BMC has been in the process of transferring and maintaining the records since the hospital's closure.

The judge declined to appoint a patient care ombudsman, who would have overseen how patients were being cared for at the emergency satellite facility. Attorneys from BMC and DPH said it was unneeded because DPH was overseeing patient care and BMC has adequate resources.

John F. Rogers, vice president and general counsel for Berkshire Health Systems, said BMC is sending crews to assess the condition of the North Adams hospital building.

North Berkshire has been without an emergency department since the abrupt closure of the hospital on March 28. Northern Berkshire Healthcare filed Chapter 7 liquidation bankruptcy less than a week later.

BMC agreed to step into the medical gap in conjunction with court orders filed almost immediately by the attorney general's office office in Berkshire Superior Court. Boroff said he wanted to note "the very courageous order issued by Judge [John] Agostini" that set the tone for the agreement.

The occupancy agreement was hammered out between the court-appointed trustee for the bankrupt NBH, BMC, the state and Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., trustee for the holders of NBH's bond debt.

It also outlines the possible purchase of Northern Berkshire Healthcare's assets, including the hospital and a building used by its physicians group.

A purchase and sales agreement is expected to be completed within seven to 10 days for BMC to acquire the properties for $4 million. The purchase, however, is contingent upon a bidding process, according to bankruptcy regulations.

Harold P. Murphy, court appointed trustee for NBH, said a competing bid would have to be at least 5 percent more for $4.2 million to be considered. Should no other bidders emerge, Murphy said, "we anticipate the court will approve the transaction."

The term sheet was being signed after the hearing in the Springfield Court House.

This article with be updated with more details later this afternoon.

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